With the International Day for Women and Girls in Science this week, educators at every level in Lethbridge say they are enthusiastically guiding more young women and girls into science and technology fields than ever before.
Principal Megan Calder at Our Lady Of Assumption Elementary School said their focus on real-world applications for science has gotten young students hooked and creates a natural path forward.
“When it’s something that they’ve already seen or experienced, they’re much more likely to dig in and to step it up a little bit when they go to junior high,” Calder said.
The University Of Lethbridge youth outreach program, Destination Exploration, is part of ensuring young minds get an early taste of future possibilities.
Officials say the camps and virtual classroom programs have been a booming success, especially with girls.
“We thought it was going to be so challenging to get girls onboard (but) girls signed up instantly — immediately,” Valerie Archibald, director of youth outreach for the university’s Faculty of Arts and Science said Wednesday. “We always had a waitlist on the girls’ side, so we do have this real interest in girls wanting to learn more about science.”
And the early learning initiatives seem to be working. U of L officials say they are impressed with the diversity of women engaging in science and research programs, and the unique perspectives they bring to the table.
“(We are seeing) women (from) Indigenous backgrounds… who are people of colour, who have different abilities and come with so much diversity of thought and culture and background and values. It’s really an interesting time in the sciences because we’re really thinking and rethinking about what we value in science and how we do science.”
For women already in research careers, the growing network of support from both male and female colleagues is fueling the fire.
“There really has been a big push for initiatives for women in science and making sure that the space is a safe place for them to be and an encouraging place for them to be,” University of Lethbridge assistant neuroscience professor Chelsea Ekstrand said. “It’s been really exciting to see this next generation of female scientists coming through.”